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How to Improve Compost Quality

Compost is a safe, clean option for helping plants to grow and enhancing the quality of your soil. It is a versatile product that can be used in landscaping, organic farming, and gardening. 

If you are looking to improve the quality of your compost and increase your benefits, you’ve come to the right place. There is a range of things you can do to improve the quality of your compost. This includes aerating your compost more regularly, getting an optimum balance between green and brown organic matter, and monitoring the moisture levels to ensure the best conditions for decomposition are present at all times.

This article acts as a guide for producing top quality compost, including the basics as well as a range of tips and tricks you can use to improve the quality of your compost. In this guide, we will cover:

  • What is compost?
  • How can I make compost?
  • How can I improve the quality of my compost?
  • What are the benefits of compost?
  • How can I use the compost?

How Can I Improve the Quality of My Compost?

Create a good balance between green and brown matter

The best compost has a good balance of both green and brown matter, although the exact optimum ratio has long been debated. Green matter contains moisture which is needed for the decomposition process, however too much of it will result in a wet, slimy pile that doesn’t actually break down. On the other hand, if a compost has too much brown matter it will be too dry and it will take a very long time for the waste to decompose.

Green matter contains nitrogen and brown matter contains carbon. Both of these need to be present for the decomposition process to work. Nitrogen is important in the photosynthesis process, while carbon brings energy. The combination of the two create an environment where microorganisms can exist, and these will break down the compost.

If you are looking for a guideline regarding the amount of each matter to put in your compost to get the best result, the general consensus ranges from 1 part brown to 1 part green to 30 parts brown to 1 part green.

Monitor the moisture level

For optimum results, you want your compost to remain moist at all times but never become too slimy or wet. To ensure your compost has the right level of moisture, make sure that you check it often and adjust when necessary.

It is easier to stay on the dry side and add moisture when required. This can be done by adding extra green matter or simply pouring in a little bit of water when it gets too dry.

The best water level for compost is 50-60%, although it can be practically impossible to gauge the water content of a home compost. Instead, pay attention to the texture and let this guide you. If there are puddles or excess water, then it is too wet. If it feels like it is holding water like a sponge, it is too wet. If it feels like a sponge that has already been wrung out, it is still too wet. 

Shred waste before putting it into the compost

An easy way to get your compost breaking down quickly is to cut all organic waste before placing it in the compost. This is especially important with brown matter that is drier and rich in carbon, taking the longest to decompose in the compost.

By shredding this material, you allow more oxygen and water to reach the materials. It also increases the surface area of the matter, meaning that more microbes can work on it at one time. These two factors will ensure that the material decomposes more quickly than if it were added in one lump. 

Aerate the compost regularly

It is important to aerate your compost regularly as it allows oxygen to make its way through the pile. This can be done by turning the compost to loosen it up.

Aeration is important because it keeps the bacteria alive. Without this bacteria, your organic waste will not break down. Every 2-3 weeks, the existing bacteria use up all of the oxygen and will begin to die off if you don’t provide more. This will lower the temperature and slow down the composting process.

Keep the decomposition moving along quickly by turning the compost and adding some air. Take the dry matter from the outside and add it to the middle, helping it to become damper. Add water if the pile appears to be getting too dry.

The peak temperature for active compost is 110℉ – 120℉. If you want to monitor the temperature of your pile, this can be a great indicator of when you need to aerate your compost. As soon as the temperature drops, turn your compost. This will allow more oxygen into the pile and increase the temperature to peak decomposition conditions once again.

If you have the money, it is worth investing in a compost tumbler over a regular bin. This makes it so much easier to turn your compost. Otherwise, most people do not aerate their piles as regularly as they should because it is too difficult and time consuming.

Create more than one compost heap

If you have a compost pile that is already well into the decomposition process, it is likely to be quicker and more effective to create another compost. 

The new pile will have the fresh waste and be able to go through the process at its own rate, resulting in better quality compost from each pile. Otherwise, if you add new waste to an already decomposed compost, it is likely to upset the balance, and the end result will not be as good. Only add extra waste if it is already unbalanced and needs more green or brown matter. 

Use alfalfa meal

Adding an “activator” to your compost can create a better quality product in a shorter amount of time. Alfalfa meal contains high levels of protein and nitrogen that will aid in the decomposition process. It is an organic way to fasten the process as it assists the organisms in breaking down the waste. You can find alfalfa meal at garden stores.

What Is Compost?

Compost is the material that is produced when organic matter goes through a natural recycling process called composting. Essentially, organic matter is collected and placed in the right conditions for it to break down. This takes our organic waste (things like vegetable peels and tree clippings) and turns it into compost. Compost is a very valuable and versatile product. It is a great option for plant food, helps improve the quality of soil, and is sometimes used to cover a landfill.

Compost is completely organic and environmentally friendly. Even the process through which it is created is clean, making it a great option for recycling and reusing your organic waste.

How Can I Make Compost?

If you are interested in making some compost of your own, you’re in luck. Our easy step-by-step guide takes you through the process of setting up your very own compost. This means you will be able to create a place to recycle all of your organic waste and will also have unlimited access to nutrient-rich compost for your garden. 

The following is a list of steps for creating your own home compost.

Buy a compost bin

Firstly, you will need to find a bin to store your compost. These should be available at your local hardware store or garden supply center. There is a range of options when it comes to compost bins, so do your research and select one that is right for you. 

Size is a big consideration when it comes to choosing a compost bin. Think about the area of your backyard or garden shed and whether you have the room to store a large bin. Also, consider the size of your family and how much organic waste your household generates. The whole idea of composting is to recycle organic matter in an environmentally-friendly way, so you want to be composting as much natural waste as possible.

Choose a place for your compost

When you have your bin, choose a place for it to live. The optimum location is one that has sunlight and natural moisture, such as rain or condensation. Composting works because of heat and moisture, so if you can expose your compost bin to natural elements, it is likely to speed up the process and provide you with better quality compost.

Make sure your compost bin is easy to access so that it actually gets used, but also out of the way enough that it won’t get bumped or knocked over.

Collect materials

The next step is to begin collecting materials inside the compost bin. You will need some sort of coarse organic matter. Hay, straw, or sticks are popular choices. You will also need water, soil, and manure, as well as some sort of cover. This could be a tarpaulin or a piece of carpet. It doesn’t really matter as long as it covers the entire top of the compost bin.

Gather organic waste

Start to gather organic waste that you will put in your compost. There are two types of organic matter that are required for composting: green matter and brown matter.

Green matter has a high nitrogen content and decomposes quickly. This type of material is often wet, so it compacts easily and can have quite a slimy texture. Examples of green matter include fruit and vegetable scraps (peels, rinds, pips, cores), tea bags, and lawn clippings. Essentially green matter is your wet material that retains moisture.

Brown matter is the drier organic waste that you will need to add to your compost. This type of material does not become wet and slimy, instead remaining dry and creating little air pockets. Types of brown matter include eggshells, sticks, dried leaves, hay, newspaper, cardboard and egg cartons.

It is important to have both types of matter when you are building your compost. You will also need to contribute both green and brown matter to your bin on an ongoing basis to ensure your compost is functioning at its optimum. 

Create a base layer

This is the stage where you actually start adding material to your compost bin. Begin by creating a base layer out of the coarse material that you collected, hay or twigs, or something similar. This layer creates a drainage system so that moisture can run through the compost to the bottom. It also allows oxygen to remain in the compost bin. Spread this layer evenly, aiming to achieve 10cm in thickness across the entire bottom surface.

Build additional layers

Next, begin building your compost layers. You want to alternate between adding green and brown matter. Green matter will bring the moisture while brown provides space for oxygen, so it’s important to have a combination of both.

Choose one type of matter and spread it out until you have a layer that is 15cm thick. Add some water if you think it is too dry. In order for decomposition to occur, the mixture has to be evenly moist, but you don’t want the materials to be soaking either. 

Finish the layer by sprinkling soil and manure over the organic waste. These ingredients create the heat that is required for the waste to decompose. It is important that you add this over the waste at every layer.

Continue building layers by alternating between green and brown matter. 

Cover the compost bin

When you have finished your layers, place the piece of material on top. This will act as a type of lid and create the conditions required for the organic matter to begin decomposition.

Leave compost to sit

Put the compost aside and leave it to sit for three months. The decomposition process will start during this time, breaking down all of the waste that is in your compost bin. 

Aerate the compost

When it has been three months, it will be time to aerate the compost. You can do this by tipping the entire mixture out of the bin, then putting it all back in again. This will mix it around and loosen it up, providing space for air. This process is important as it inputs oxygen into the mixture. Leave the compost to sit for another three months.

Use the compost in your garden

When the second 3 month period is over, you will have compost that is ready to use. Simply apply it directly to your garden beds to increase the quality of your soil and plants.

What Are the Benefits of Compost?

Acts a natural fertilizer

Compost is most commonly used to feed plants. It is a great alternative to chemical fertilizers that often contain products that can harm the environment. Compost is rich in nutrients and is able to give plants a boost that will enhance their growth and overall condition.

Acts as a natural pesticide

This may be less well known, but compost is actually an effective natural pesticide. It prevents weeds from growing in the space, creating more room for the plants to flourish. This also stops the weeds from stealing the plants’ resources. 

Improves the quality of the soil

A big benefit of compost is that it actually improves the soil and the overall environment. Most people think that it helps plants to grow because it provides nutrients, but it is so much more than that.

Compost improves the quality of the soil by adding nutrients, but it also changes the structure, making it better for a whole range of microorganisms to exist. It adds moisture to the soil, as well as changing the structure of it so it can retain water better. Dry soil creates a type of greasy film that actually stops it from retaining moisture. Compost breaks through this barrier with its microbes, changing the structure of the soil so that it can retain water once again.

It also helps to create better drainage so that water can flow better through the soil. This means that water gets where it needs to, but also doesn’t sit in piles and drown plants. These pathways are also good for aerating the soil and ensuring enough oxygen is getting through.

All of these things create a better environment for organisms such as worms and microbes to live, strengthening the ecosystem.

Is good for the environment

Compost is a natural product that does not harm the environment. It actually helps to give back nutrients that we take out with the vegetables and fruit that we consume. Additionally, compost reduces the amount of waste we are sending to landfill. The composting process is completely clean, turning organic waste into a usable product. It is better to compost your organic waste to send it to the landfill as methane gas is generated when this material decomposes naturally in an oxygen-free environment. This gas is not produced when the material decays in a compost system.

How Can I Use the Compost?

Compost is an extremely versatile product that can be used for a range of purposes. Most commonly, it is used to feed plants and enhance their growth. This is why the quality of the compost is so important. The better the compost, the more impact it has in your garden.

You can use compost in your garden in a number of ways:

Build garden beds

If you really want to give your plants the best environment to grow and thrive, use high-quality compost to create garden beds. Plan where you want to create a garden bed and begin digging out the soil. Replace it with your home compost and old manure. Leave this material to sit for a couple of weeks to ensure all organic waste has decomposed properly. You will be adding your plants directly to the compost, so don’t want any waste remaining.

It is not possible to use too much compost. This material is natural and extremely good for plants, so make sure you are generous with filling the garden beds. If you do not have enough home compost, you may need to purchase some to finish your garden beds. Make sure that the quality of your purchased compost is good, and it doesn’t contain any rubbish.

Use it as a substitute for mulch

Another effective way to nourish your garden is to use compost instead of mulch. This provides all the nutrients your plants need in an easy to access format. Simply place the compost around your plants, spreading it to create an even top layer. Do not spread it more than 40mm thick.

This option requires a lot of compost, especially if you use it to do a number of gardens. If you only have a small home compost, you may also need to purchase some for this option. 

Make your own liquid fertilizer

Compost is a natural fertilizer that feeds plants, but you can take this to the next level by creating your own liquid fertilizer. All you need to do is grab a bucket and create a mixture. Start by adding compost to the bucket, then add water. You should use a ratio of 3 parts water to 1 part compost. Allow this mixture to sit for 3 days, stirring 2-3 times during the sitting period. This will help air to flow through the mixture and ensure that the fertilizer is of high quality.

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The finished product will be a natural, organic liquid fertilizer that can be administered directly to your plants. Pour it around your garden to get the best results.

The best part is that your homemade liquid fertilizer is completely recyclable. If you have leftover mixture, all you need to do is add it back to your compost pile. It will combine with the compost material and help to break it down. The next time you need liquid fertilizer, you can just create some more. Alternatively, there is no harm in spreading any remaining liquid fertilizer around your garden.

Create your own potting mix

Another valuable way to use compost is to create an organic potting mix. This is easy to make at home in a wheelbarrow. Firstly, collect the materials that you need. This includes compost (hopefully you have enough from your home compost), sphagnum moss, and river sand. The moss needs to be shredded thoroughly to get the best quality potting mix.

Place all materials in the wheelbarrows and mix them thoroughly. Try to stick to a ratio of 1 part sphagnum moss, 2 parts river sand and 4 parts compost. River sand and sphagnum moss can both be purchased from your local hardware or garden supply store.

This potting mix is great for plants and is also environmentally friendly. It is best to use your own compost as you know exactly what it contains. This way, you can ensure that the compost is of high quality.

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It is also used to improve the quality of soil, which can have a broader, long term impact on the ecosystem. Compost is a nutrient-rich substance and can add valuable materials to the soil. It can even be used to change its structure, creating natural drainage for soil that is too dry or too compact.

Additionally, compost has been used to establish new wetlands or prevent soil and water erosion. It is also sometimes used to cover landfill. Better quality compost is better at covering the smell of rubbish.

Final Thoughts

A valuable product, compost is easy to make at home. This is the best way to monitor its quality and ensure it has been created using appropriate organic matter. There are various ways you can improve the quality of your compost, including using the right combination of green and brown matter, turning it regularly to allow a better flow of oxygen and managing the water level to keep it just right. 

You can also use an activator such as alfalfa meal, which will help speed up the decomposition process and provide you with high-quality compost in a shorter amount of time. Shredding waste, especially brown matter, also has a similar effect, making it easier for the waste to break down.

It is important that we optimize the conditions to create the best quality compost possible. This will have a broader impact on the environment, especially our gardens. The better quality the compost, the more effective it will be in facilitating plant growth. It will also enhance the soil environment by adding nutrients, creating natural drainage systems, and improving water retention. 

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All of these things will have a positive impact by helping to support the greater ecosystem. Poor quality compost, or compost that contains chemicals or rubbish, will not be as effective or as good for the environment. This is why it is important that we do everything we can do optimize the quality of our compost.